Category Archives: Holidays

A Merry Little Christmas

Another Christmas done. It’s hard to believe that this is our 15th Christmas as a married couple and our 11th as a family. I love that we always have a special morning together, with just us, celebrating God’s gift to the world and our gifts to each other.

THE HIGHLIGHTS

  • Zachary’s first Christmas (wearing the same PJ’s that all of the kids have worn for their first Christmas)
  • The magic of a two year old on Christmas morning (and watching her progressive wardrobe change)
  • Mama-made Christmas PJs for all the kids (wrinkled from a good night’s sleep)
  • Gratitude and excitement for gifts (we rarely buy anything for the kids through the year, making Christmas and birthdays truly special)
  • Another white Christmas (we buy 10 pounds of cotton batting each year so we can have a “White Christmas”)
  • Our traditional red and green Thai Sticky Rice with Mango
  • A special gift from Alaina: 15 years of Christmas memories typed and presented to me. I love that she knows me well enough to know how much that would mean to me.
  • A special gift from Caleb: A huge hand drawn picture of “DRAWWORLD.” I love to see his creativity. The details are amazing!
  • Two boys feeling grown up with their new iPod shuffles.
  • Two happy girls anticipating a “girl trip” to Kuala Lumpur at the end of January
  • Two happy boys anticipating a “boy trip” trip to Legoland in Malaysia at the beginning of January.
  • Being surrounded by these amazing people I get to call family.

 

 

This Was December

*In an effort to give an update on the last seven months, I am posting monthly reviews for June-December 2013. Feel free to catch the others here: JuneJulyAugust, September, October, and November.

 

What November lacked in photos, December more than makes up for it. I was feeling so much better — physically, yes, but also emotionally and mentally.  The pregnancy fog that plagued me for so long started to lift and I was starting to feel like myself again.  The things I normally enjoy (like taking photos) was fun again. Plus, with three Christmas celebrations, a 17 day trip, and lots of firsts (like sledding!) there was a lot to photograph!

The month started off strong. Since we were going to be leaving on a trip to Michigan later in the month, we wanted to be sure that we took time to celebrate Christmas as a family first.  So, we got right to work decorating, wrapping, and preparing for our December 8th family Christmas.

Days leading up to our family Christmas were filled with baking, preparing, school, and getting ready for our trip.

Alaina is so good about helping Katie with her school work!

A special dessert one night. Pinterest makes holiday baking so much more fun!

Our “Christmas” morning started off as usual: stockings, pictures in Christmas jammies (opened the night before), and breakfast together. Thai sticky rice (in red and green!) is always the request!

Then we moved on to gifts!

All the present opening wore us out (as evidenced by Miss Bethany pretending to nap with her new blankie and pillow pet), so we cleaned up and rested.  Then, I took the kids out for a bit so I could get some photos of them.  It had been a long time since I took them out specifically for photos. Caleb was sick and we were losing light fast, but we were still able to get a few good ones.

The next day, I made everyone get dressed again to try for a few family pictures.  It was a complete failure, but at least we got some laughs out of.  Not one picture that I love, but a lot that make me giggle! And yes, I am completely embarrassed to show the ones of me in the them.  I hate them all.  But hey, this is real life and this is sometimes what we get.  In case you are wondering, I set my camera on a tripod and I use a remote timer that I set to take a photo every three seconds.


I take that back…I love these two :) Daddy to the rescue to save a screaming baby.  She loves him so much!

Mixed in with packing and getting ready for our trip to Michigan, the next week was filled with some leisure.  Walks with the kids, baking, and just soaking in the beauty of God’s creation. Almost nothing brings me so close to the Lord than stopping in awe and wonder at His beautiful creation. His creativity — even in the smallest details — leaves me awestruck.

 

These cookies, Jason said, “Are like a bit of holiday delight in your mouth!”  I laughed so hard!

I made lots of yummy chai mix with fresh ground spices.  Mmmm…

On the 15th of December, we drove to Michigan to spend the holidays with family.  On the 17th (in addition to celebrating 13 years of marriage!), we celebrated Christmas with Jason’s parents and brother.  One of the first orders of business for the day was for Caleb to wow us with his magic show.  He had been practicing for a few weeks and he did a great job!


My favorite part of the day was getting to spend it with our sweet Lucy!  She isn’t able to live with us at the missionary home so she has been living with Jason’s parents.  I can’t wait to have her back with us again!

On the morning of the 21st, the kids got to experience for the first time what they were most excited about: SNOW! Michigan got a light dusting and long before the sun was up, our kids were out enjoying it!


Bethany woke up later and took her turn exploring the white stuff.

On December 23rd, we made the seven hour trek to Madison, Wisconsin, to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with my side of the family.  It was a fun time to be all together and my younger sister and her husband were great (and gracious!) hosts. Christmas morning was a bit insane, but even Santa found some time to snooze.


On the way back to Michigan, we had the pleasure of spending a few hours with former coworkers from Indonesia. What a blessing it was to get together!


Once we got back to Michigan, the kids were thrilled to see a good amount of snow.  They LOVED playing and sledding on the piles dumped in Wisconsin and so they were thrilled for a few more chances to enjoy it before heading back to North Carolina. And I was thrilled with the local salvation army that helped us get all five kids outfitted for under $30! No use spending lots of money on things we probably won’t ever be able to use again!

The final event of our trip was something that we had been meaning to do all month and just hadn’t had the chance to do yet: make gingerbread houses.  It isn’t something we had ever done before, so when I saw these kits at Hobby Lobby on Black Friday, I thought they would be a great first-time experience for us.  The kids had so much fun (and made a huge mess of Jason’s parent’s kitchen!)

And one final photo of 2012…saying goodbye to grandma and grandpa (and Lucy :().  Looking forward to a GREAT 2013!

And that was December!

Our First Seder Meal

The Charoset, Karpas, and the four glasses of wine (Cup of Sanctification, Cup of  Instruction, Cup of Redemption, and the Cup of Praise)

Easter comes every year and with it comes pretty new dresses, chocolate bunnies, and colored Easter eggs.  I don’t have a problem with a cultural celebration of holidays, but I also want to make sure that my children understand the spiritual significance of these holidays.  Christmas and Easter are much more than fun days with food and gifts to be had.  They are part of God’s plan of remembering His birth, His death, and His resurrection.  Amidst the pretty eggs and fluffy bunnies, I want our family to remember and grasp the significance of Christ’s sacrifice.

For the past few years, I have really wanted to have a Seder meal with my family.  This is definitely not something I grew up with, but it was something I knew some friends did and it sounded like something I really wanted to try.  For those of you not familiar with it (I sure wasn’t!), a Seder Meal is celebrating the Passover.  Obviously, we aren’t Jewish.  However, I think that there is a lot to be learned by taking part of this celebration of God’s deliverance of His people when He brought them out of Egypt.  Even more so, for us as Christians, it is a celebration of God’s deliverance of His people when He gave His life upon the cross as the perfect spotless lamb.  On Good Friday, a day commemorating Christ’s death, a Passover meal and order of service provides as way (at least in my mind) of bridging the gap between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant.

God commanded the Israelites to celebrate the Passover as a way of teaching their children about how He miraculously delivered them from slavery in Egypt. Many years later, Jesus and His disciples traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover in accordance with God’s command.  There, they shared a final meal before Christ’s ultimate betrayal. In the first Passover, a lamb’s blood was placed above the doorposts of a home so that the angel of God would pass over and not bring death. In the Ultimate Passover, Christ’s blood was placed upon a cross so that God’s wrath could be satisfied and we would not taste death. The Passover and Good Friday belong together.

Last year I thought that my kids were finally old enough to attempt our first Seder Meal.  I asked around for ideas of what to do (I had absolutely no idea), and our good friends recommended the book Celebrating Biblical Feasts.  I bought it a day or two before Good Friday and quickly realized that with a brand new baby  and being in the middle of seven birthdays, two days was not long enough to prepare.  So, I put it off a year.  We were in danger of skipping it this year as well, due to another busy spring (those same seven birthdays keep popping up!) and the fact that Jason’s birthday was actually on Good Friday.  But I was determined and so even though we celebrated a day late, I am so glad we did it.

I won’t go into all the order and  spiritual significance of the event.  You can read about it many places.  You can (and should!) read the book and you can even get a printable copy of the script from the book publisher.  We modified it quite a bit, accounting for time and for the ages of our children (and the fact that Alaina was incredibly sick and she is our only confident reader). But, we made it work and we learned a lot.  Both Jason and I got done with the evening and thought, “Yes, this is definitely something that we will repeat.” Our God is a God of memories.  He wanted the Israelites to remember.  He wants us to remember.  And He commands that we teach it to our children.

“This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD—a lasting ordinance.” Exodus 12: 14

“And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the LORD, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.’” Exodus 12:26, 27

Left: The Karpas (for dipping in salt water and eating).  Right: The unleavened bread, Matzo.

A bowl for Urchatz, the washing of the hands

Left: Traditionally, the woman of the home wears a white head covering during the service.  She also lights the candles at the beginning of the meal.  Right: Me acting out being a Jewish man who had escaped from Egypt during the Exodus.

Left: Alaina reads the child questions.  Right: Jason dips the hard boiled egg into the salt water, representing Pharaoh’s hard heart and the salt water of the Red Sea


Because life is always crazy in a big family, Levi lost his first tooth in the middle of the service.  I was in the bathroom getting changed and I heard Jason say, “Don’t worry, Levi. I know exactly what to do.”  I came out to see him taking pictures.  Good husband.

A few tips:

  • Plan ahead.  This isn’t something that can be thrown together in an hour or two, especially if you have young kids and need to modify the service.
  • Don’t worry about it being perfect.  We couldn’t get or didn’t have time to get some of the items, including the roasted lamb bone.  We used chicken. We made other substitutions as necessary. It is the symbolism that is important.
  • Read through the script and take out any parts that you think are far above the level of your children.  We took out a few parts including setting a place for Elijah.  I figure that we have lots of years to add things in.  I didn’t want to overwhelm the kids with too much that they didn’t understand.
I had some scrapping time this weekend and already created a page about our experience.  I can’t wait to do it again!

 

 

She’s Four, Pt. 2


We are officially in birthday season around here.  Alaina starts us off at the end of January and then the rest of us celebrate six birthdays in eight weeks!  It is crazy, fun, and totally exhausting.  By the time May 2 rolls around and we are done, I am SO thankful that it is another nine months before I have to think birthday again.

That said, we have tons of fun!  We always do our best to truly celebrate the lives of our children.  They get to pick the meals for the day and they get to choose an activity that we do as a family.  They look forward to it and often have their idea planned out months (if not a year!) in advance.

In addition, we try to do a few other special things on or around their birthday.  One-on-one time with mom and/or dad is a must.  With five children in the family, it is important to take time to spend time with them individually.  We LOVE being a big family and think that there are many benefits to growing up among siblings, but we also want to ensure that our children know and understand that they are treasured as an individual.  Birthdays are a great way to do that.

Katie’s birthday celebrations were a multi-day affair.  Her Daddy forgot to look at the calendar when planning his biggest event of the year at school (Elementary Sports Day) and set it for Katie’s birthday.  So, we stretched the celebrations over a few days, which made Katie insanely happy.  Even now, she refuses to admit that her birthday is over.

Part one of her birthday was actually two days before. She wanted “Mommy’s Special Cinnamon Rolls” for breakfast.  They are very time-consuming so we opted to have them on Sunday morning rather than rush on a day when Jason had to work.

Then, on her actual birthday, I took her out for a special Mommy and Me birthday lunch.

That night, Katie requested cooking hotdogs and marshmallows over a fire in the backyard and then cupcakes, “with chocolate sprinkles” for dessert. Her wish is my command.

The next day, Jason took a personal day and we fulfilled Katie’s biggest wish: to go ice skating!  And before and after skating, Alaina and I took Katie on a mini girl’s day out. Starbucks, Coldstone, nail polish…what more could a girl want?

Only five more birthdays to go!  Next up, Bethany!  My girl turns ONE in eight days! Eek!

 

 

What I Really Want to Give my Children for Christmas

CHRISTMAS 2010

Normally, I am someone who wants to start listening to Christmas music in June.  By the time November rolls around, I am about jumping out of my skin because I am so excited about the holiday season.  Even though we live overseas—which definitely makes the season a little more low-key—I still love all things Christmas.  The music, the lights, the cozy feel, and the food.  Oh, the food!

But for some reason this year, I am having trouble getting into the spirit.  I feel like June was yesterday and so I can’t figure out how Christmas can be in just a few weeks.  It’s been a busy and crazy and emotion-filled year and December just sort of snuck up on me.  And because of that, I haven’t purchased even one gift. We are planning on doing Christmas fairly small this year, but still, it’s December 7 and I have nothing.

So, today I actually started thinking about what to give the kids.  We have a few traditional gifts (like Christmas PJ’s and an ornament) and there are a few things that I know each of them want, but I usually like to throw a few other things in there too. As I sat down today to think through things and to search online for ideas and inspiration, I really started pondering what the greatest gift I could give them would be.  And it was easy to see that it isn’t the Legos or the dolls or the big set of craft supplies.  No, it is something much bigger.  I want my children to have the best.

The best me.

I want to give my children LOVE: I want them to have a mother who truly loves them and expresses that love not just in words, but also in deeds.  I want my actions and attitude to exhibit my deep love for my kids so that even if the words were gone, they would never question my love.

I want to give my children JOY: I want to create a joyful home—one that is full of laughter and silliness and a true grasp that all things are in God’s control and therefore we can always rejoice.  I want to be a joyful mother, not doing my work grudgingly but with a cheerful heart and attitude.

I want to give my children PEACE: I want our home to be a peaceful place.  I do not want our hours and days to be filled with stress, hurry, and angry words.  I want to be organized, disciplined, and rest-filled so that our home is a place that the children (and Jason) long to be in after time in the “real” harsh world. I want my family to be in our home and just say, “Ahhh….”

I want to give my children PATIENCE: I want my children to have a patient mother—a mother who understands their ages and limitations and extends them loving grace even in the midst of training and discipline. I want to be patient with their short-comings, personality quirks, and childish ways.

I want to give my children KINDNESS: I want my children to have a mother who looks for ways to serve them.  I don’t want to just do the bare minimum while I quietly hope that no one else needs anything.  I want to be intentionally kind—looking for ways to express my love for them.  I want to speak kind words—to them, about them, and about others.

I want to give my children GOODNESS: I want to give my children a mother who is good and who seeks the good for others.  I want to always be above reproach and never afraid that listening ears may pick up on sinful hypocrisy.

I want to give my children GENTLENESS: Oh how I long for gentleness!  I want to give my children a mother who speaks in gentle words and with a gentle tone of voice.  I want my facial expressions to be gentle, my touch to be gentle, and my correction to be gentle.  I don’t ever want my kids to avoid me for fear of harshness.

I want to give my children FAITHFULNESS: I want to give them a mother who is always, always faithful—faithful to them, faithful to their daddy, faithful to my word, and faithful to my work.

I want to give my children SELF-CONTROL: I want my children to have a mother who is strong enough to control her words, her actions, and her body language.  I want my children to see a mother who intentionally chooses to do and/or say what is right even when emotions are high and sleep is low.

And so, although I am sure there will be some Legos and dolls and craft supplies under our tree this year, I pray that our home will also be filled with gifts of love, joy, peace, patience, kindess, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.  And those, my friends, can’t be ordered online.

Investing in Us

 

We had a weekend away.

It’s always a hard balance for me.  I want to be frugal with money and a wise steward of what we have, and yet, there are things that we choose to spend money on that are more than what they seem.  We do without a lot of things that most people see as necessities (or at least understood as “deserved” wants). We choose to have no cable.  Starbucks is a rare treat. An expensive meal out (for all of us!) is a total bill of $25.  Due to what we do and the size of our family, we have to be careful with our money at every turn.  There isn’t room to be frivolous.

So it comes as a surprise to many that we often stay in hotels, just for the sake of staying in a hotel.  We will even do it in our own town. It may seem like an extravagant waste, and at times I don’t let us enjoy it, but it is so much more than just paying for a hotel.

It is investing in us.  Investing in who we are.  When we go away—get out of the house, truly relax, and focus on each other (instead of the things at home that vie for our attention)—we come back renewed, refreshed, and ready to dig our feet in and get started with “real life” once again with a fresh perspective and purpose.  When we go away, we invest not only in a hotel room but in our family’s memories, our traditions, our children’s sense of worth. We are building—piece by piece—an entire childhood for our kids.  We want them to have special memories  and “we always did that” recollections.  When they are older and have moved away from family, we want them to have something solid to think back on.  Our little tradition of staying in hotels is a part of that.

It had been a while since we had done it.  The kids and Jason went a few weeks ago but we hadn’t gone away as entire family since July. It was time.  We’ve had a long and rough few months around here and we needed some distance from “real life” and some time to just enjoy one another.  Time for being lazy, for swimming, for reading, for relaxing, and for talking about dreams and plans. I came back thinking, “We really need to do that more often.” It may seem extravagant, but can you really put a price on family?

And now, our weekend in pictures (and a few words):

Our weekend actually started on Wednesday.  Jason had a half-day in school and so after he got home, we headed into town to do some grocery shopping (grocery shopping here is at least a 4-5 hour ordeal).  We were having a few friends over on Thursday for an early meal before they all left for Bali and we needed to pick up some things as well as do our regular weekly shopping. The next day, we cooked and prepared and welcomed our friends over for a simple Thanksgiving meal.  The kids were really hungry at this point and were doing their best to wait patiently.  I think the huge platter of cucumbers and carrots I put out ahead of time kept the smiles on their faces while they waited.

 


 

Our guests headed out for their trip and finally, it was just us.  We packed for our trip and were ready so that we could get up early the next day for our trip to Jakarta.

Our first stop was for a doctor’s appointment.  Afterward, we found our hotel (a new one for us) and played on the playground for a few hours and ate lunch while we waited for our room to be cleaned.  When we finally got to our 26th floor room, we were in awe of the view (and to be honest, a little bit nauseous!)


Bethany needed to go down for a nap so Jason and the other kids headed to the pool.  Bethany must have known that everyone was having fun without her and therefore woke up from her nap very early.  So, off to the pool we went!

 


The next day, it was Jason’s turn for the doctor and I stayed back with the kids.  We hung out, went to one of the three playgrounds, let the kids watch TV (they love going to Jakarta because “the TV’s speak English!”) The rest of the day was more swimming, more relaxing, more reading, and more resting.

On Sunday, Jason and the kids headed back to the pool once again while I stayed with Bethany for her morning nap (and I finished a book I have been wanting to read since September!)  Before I put Bethany down, though, I snapped a few pictures of my girl. Don’t mind the drool…she has three teeth coming in!

And then, it was time to pack up.  Sad to leave, but excited to get back home and to routine. Only three weeks until Christmas break!  I tried to take a few more pictures of my beautiful eight-month-old.

Then the other kids started popping in.  They love their baby sister!

Might as well bring them all up on the bed! Lot’s of good outtakes and no real keepers, but a pretty good representation of reality!





As I look at these pictures and think back over the past few days, I am reminded once again how important it is to invest in us. Putting time and money into building memories, traditions, and family fun is far more valuable than spending money on more and more stuff. My very best memories of my childhood having nothing to do with any tangible gift I received or nice looking decoration in our home.  No, my best memories are the trips we took as a family.  The travelling, the squabbles in the car, the treats that were only for travelling (like McDonald’s!), the hotel rooms,  and my dad’s annoying music in the car (especially the opera that put us to sleep!)—those are the things that bring a smile to my face now. And so, as hard as it is sometimes to put money into something that appears to be temporal (a hotel room), I realize that the investment pays off in ways that I am only beginning to see the true rewards of.

This Thanksgiving weekend, I am thankful for us.